VRI leader: "We are not going to abandon ship because of the numbers"
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Chattanooga's Violence Reduction Initiative is entering its second year. While the initiative has proven to be effective in other cities, is it working in Chattanooga? Channel 3 asked the key officials involved in the VRI.
City leaders say while the recent increase in shootings can be frustrating, they're not giving up.
"I absolutely believe that we have saved people's lives, that we have intervened between shootings, and we have reduced crime significantly in Chattanooga," Chief of Police Fred Fletcher said after being asked if the VRI is working.
The initiative promises to reduce violence in the city. The idea is to reach out to violent criminals with a message: "We will help you if you let us. We will stop you if you make us."
Fletcher said the VRI aligns with best practices in policing; strategies in which community members respond well.
"They do not want us to saturate neighborhoods. They don't want us to do constitutionally nebulous tactics like stop and frisk. They don't want us to do the things that cause the problems that this police department, this community are committed to fixing," Fletcher said.
While overall violent crime in Chattanooga is down by nearly 7 percent this year, there have been five more shootings compared to this time last year.
"(The statistics) wear you down, but they don't get discouraging because we've seen individuals who have turned their lives around," said Dr. Paul Smith, the city's Public Safety Coordinator.
Smith delivers those custom notifications. They're face-to-face interventions with gang members and their families. He said it doesn't promote a "snitch" culture because individuals and their progress remain anonymous to the public.
When asked if the VRI is working, Smith responded: "The individuals who have received our custom notifications, for the most part, they are cooperating."
After six shootings in the past week, a group of 12 gang members -- who clearly aren't getting the message -- is believed to be responsible.
Smith said those involved with the VRI aren't giving up or changing their approach.
"We are not just going to walk away and abandon ship because the quantitative numbers are still what they are," he said.
There are still no arrests in any of the recent shootings. Anyone with information is asked to call Chattanooga Police at (423) 698-2525.